From poor grades to big firm job

Below is a post from a loyal LegalJob follower about he ultimately landed a big law firm job.

Happy holidays!  I am a big firm associate who did extremely poorly for the first half of law school, but was able to turn things around with hard work, not to mention LegalJob’s inspiration and support.  LegalJob asked if I could share my story, so here goes:



Some of my classmates understood how to craft an “A” exam going into law school. I didn’t.  Eventually, I realized that law school is a game, like golf or chess.  There are rules, and strategies for using those rules to do well.  And since no one was teaching me the rules – my professors didn’t deign to write any feedback from my exams – I’d have to teach myself.  So I bought books on how to write legal exams and practiced incessantly.  After doing that, I started looking forward to hammering out the next law exam.  Oh, and my grades improved, too.

Picking a Major

This process was painful for me because my background and coursework straddled two completely different areas of law, and I was afraid of what I’d lose in giving up one or the other.  Eventually, I became too exhausted in keep to date on both areas of law, since reading the leading publications and attending the conferences for both proved too much, so I went all-in on one area.  I’m glad I did.  Doing so made my job search much more manageable because it knocked out 50% of the leads I was trying to find the time to follow.  It also allowed me to become more specialized in the field I picked, making me more knowledgeable than other applicants, or so I’m told.

Being Active in the Field


Once I picked the major, I tried to be everywhere, writing (and interviewing all kinds of people for my writing), attending conferences (again, to meet other people in the field), and generally thinking about how I could expand my “brand” in area.  It worked: other, much more knowledgeable people in the field would still seek me out if I had anything borderline-insightful to offer.

One regret I have is sending out page-long cover letters to attorneys who I thought were potentially hiring.  Attorneys are very busy people.  I know I personally don’t have time to read some random 3L’s cover letter.  Here’s a much better way to communicate briefly, using email:

“Hi, I liked your comment in [publication].  I’m working on [issue] for [link to presentation].  What do you think?”

“Great thinking!  I haven’t heard of that issue before.  I think [. . .].  Would you mind if I shared your presentation with [person A, B, and C at the firm]?

In my opinion, the 3-sentence email is harder to write than the page-long cover letter, because the emailer put in more work: they’ve spent enough time in their major to spot novel issues; by spotting those issues, they’re suggesting that they’d do well at winning cases and building a client base; and they’re self-motivated enough to be reading and writing in an extremely dry and complex subject area, all of which are characteristics that would interest a hiring partner.

In conclusion, I want to thank LegalJob for helping me succeed, and hope that all its readers will be successful as well.

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